And Lead Us Not Into TemptationA Practical Exposition of the Lord's Prayer by Thomas Manton (1620-1677) (Volume 1)
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And Lead Us Not Into Temptation
We are now come to the sixth petition, which is doubly expressed:-
1. Negatively, Lead us not into temptation.
2. Affirmatively, But deliver us from evil.
The first part doth more concern preventing grace, that we may not fall into evil; and the second, recovering grace, that if we fall into evil we may not be overcome of it, nor overwhelmed by it, but may find deliverance from the Lord. Here we pray: (1.) that we may not be tempted; or, (2.) if the Lord see it fit we should be tempted, that we may not yield; or, (3.) if we yield, that we may not totally be overcome. As the former petition concerned the guilt of sin, so this concerns the reign and power of it.
In this first part, take notice:-
First, Of the evil deprecated, or that which we pray against, and that is, temptation.
Secondly, The manner of deprecation, Lead us not.
In which there is something implied, and something formally asked.
1. Something implied; and that is: – [1.] God’s providence. When we say to God, ‘Lead us not,’ we do acknowledge he hath the disposal of temptation. [2.] God’s justice, and our desert; that for former sins, God may suffer this evil to befall us. We have so often provoked the Lord, that in a judicial manner lie may suffer us to be tempted. [3.] Our weakness; that we are unable to stand under such a condition by our own strength, therefore we go to God. 2. Something formally asked; that is, either that God would prevent the temptation, or, if he should use such a dispensation towards us, give us grace to overcome it. Of these things I shall speak in their order. First, Of the evil deprecated; and from thence observe:-
Doct. 1. That temptations are a usual evil, wherewith we encounter in the present world.
Here I shall:-
I. Open the nature of temptations.
II. I shall give you some observations concerning them.
III. The reasons of it.
I. For the nature of temptations.
Temptation is a proving or making trial of a thing or person; what he is, and what he will do. And thus sometimes we are said to tempt God, and at other times God is said to tempt us.
1. We are said to tempt God when we put it to the proof whether he will be as good as his word, either in the comminatory or promissory part thereof: Ps. xcv. 9, ‘When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works;’ they tempted God, as they put him often upon the trial. To note that, by the way, there is a twofold tempting or proving of God, either in a way of duty or sin. (1.) In a way of duty, when we wait to see his promise fulfilled; and so, Mal. iii. 10, ‘Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing.’ Come pay your tithes and offerings: he would have the portion which belonged to himself: ‘and prove me now herewith,’ etc. God submits to a trial from experience, when we wait for the good promised. Thus we try God, and try his word: Ps. xviii. 30, ‘The word of the Lord is a tried word; he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.’ All those which build upon it, that wait to see what God will do, they will find it, upon experience, to be accomplished to a tittle; never did any build upon it, or wait for the accomplishment of it, in vain. (2.) In a way of sin. Many ways we are said to tempt God. When we set God a task, in satisfying our conceits and carnal affections: Ps. lxxviii. 18, ‘They tempted God in their hearts, by asking meat for their lusts;’ and when we will not believe in him, but upon conditions of our own making; or when we confine him to our means, or time, or manner of working; or would have some extraordinary proof of his being, and power, and goodness; or see whether God will punish us though we sin against him. All these ways we are said to tempt God in a way of sin. But that is not my business now. Therefore,
2. As man tempts God, so is man himself tempted. Now man is either tempted:-
First, By God.
Secondly, By Satan.
Thirdly, By his own heart.
First, Man is tempted by God: Gen. xxii. 1, ‘And it came to pass, after these things, that God did tempt Abraham. How is God said to tempt man? When he trieth what is in us: Deut. viii. 2, ‘To humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart;’ either what of grace, or what of sin, is in our heart.
[1.] What of grace. Thus the Lord tries us by afflictions, by delays of promises, and other means becoming his holy nature. By afflictions, for they are called a trial: 1 Pet. i.6, ‘Now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.’ The afflictions of the gospel are called temptations. And so by delay of promises: God trieth us sometimes by delaying the accomplishment of his promise; as in Ps. cv. 19, ‘Until the time that his word came, the word of the Lord tried him;’ that is, until the promise was fulfilled and accomplished. A man is put to trial of all the grace that is in his heart.
. God tries what corruption there is in us. He trieth this either by offering occasions, or withdrawing his grace, or by permitting Satan to tempt us.
(1.) By offering occasions in the course of his providence: God puts us upon trial there; sometimes by want, sometimes by fulness. By want: John vi. .5, 6, ‘Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?’ saith Christ to Philip. ‘And this he said to prove him; for he himself knew what he would do.’ Christ will have the weakness of his followers tried, as well as their strength. And he trieth his people often by this kind of trial, when there are many mouths and no meat, and a man cannot see which way his visible supplies shall come in: this he doth to prove them, to see whether they will look only to outward likelihood and probabilities, or rest themselves upon God’s promise and all-sufficiency; or else, by fulness and outward prosperity, to see if they will forget him. I confess I do not remember where this is called a trial in scripture, unless there be somewhat in that place, Deut. viii. 16, ‘He fed thee with manna in the wilderness, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end. Possibly the trial there might lie in this: because they had but from hand to mouth, or because it was not that meat which their lusts craved, but that which God saw fit for them. But, however, though prosperity be not called so, yet certainly it is in itself a trial: Prov. xxx. 9, ‘Give me not riches, lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord?’ Lust in us makes it to be a temptation, and the godly have been often foiled by it; and they need learn ‘how to abound, as well as how to be abased,’ Phil. iv. 12. They need learn how to avoid the snares of a prosperous condition. David, it was a trial to him; while he was wandering in the wilderness, he had such tenderness, that his heart smote him when he cut off the lap of Saul’s garment, while he was chased like a partridge upon the mountains, wandering up and down, from forest to forest. But when he was walking at ease upon the terrace of his palace in Jerusalem, then he falls into blood and uncleanness; and therefore his estate was a trial, and he lieth in it, notwithstanding all his former tenderness of heart, until he was roused up by Nathan the prophet. And certainly, as to the wicked, it is a very great temptation, judicially inflicted, disposed of to them by God’s judgment: they are plagued by worldly felicity; and it is part of their curse that they ‘shall be written in the earth,’ Jer. xvii. 13; and suitable to this purpose, God saith, Jer. vi. 21, ‘Behold, I will lay stumbling-blocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them. How doth God lay stumbling-blocks? If men will find the sin, God may with justice enough find the occasion; he will give them some outward condition that is a snare to them. As we may try a servant whom we have just cause to suspect, by laying something in the way, that his filching humour may be discovered, without any breach of justice; so the wicked, that harden their hearts against God, God may give them their hearts’ desire, and worldly happiness, and so it may cause them to stumble.
(2.) God trieth us also by withdrawing his grace, as in 2 Chron. xxxii. 31, ‘God left him to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.’ It is needful sometimes that we should see our weakness as well as our strength, and how unable we are to stand without grace, that we may be sensible whence we stand, and which without temptation could not so well be.
(3.) God tries us, by permitting the temptations of Satan and his instruments; for surely these things do not befall us without a providence. Job xii. 16, ‘The deceived and the deceiver are his,’ his creatures; and nothing can be done or suffered in this kind without God’s providence. See it in Christ’s instance, Mat. iv. 1, it is said, ‘He was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil;’ that is, led by the good and Holy Spirit to be tempted by the evil spirit. So, 2 Sam. xxiv. 1, compared with 1 Chron. xxi. 1: God moved David, and Satan provoked David, to number the people; that is, God did let loose Satan upon David, to accomplish the righteous ends of his providence. And many of those arrows which are shot at us, though they come immediately from Satan’s bow, yet they are taken out of God’s quiver. God, as a just judge, may give us up to Satan as his minister and executioner. Well, then, this is one way of God’s tempting, permitting of Satan to tempt. And as Satan, so his instruments, God tries us by them. Deut. xiii. 1—3, ‘If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, thou shalt not hearken unto him. Why? ‘For time Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul.’ God proveth. When there are delusions abroad and errors broached, it is ‘that the approved may be made manifest,’ 1 Cor. xi. 19. God letteth loose these winds of error and delusion that the solid grain may be distinguished from the light chaff, and that he may discover his own people, and whether we have received truths upon evidence, or taken them up only upon hearsay. All these ways may God be said to tempt.
Now concerning this, take these rules:-
(1.) God’s tempting is not to inform himself, but to discover his creatures to themselves and others. Not to inform himself, for ‘he knows our thoughts afar off, Ps. cxxxix. 2; that is, he knows not only the conclusion and event, and management of things near, but he knows the very remote preparation aforehand; he knows what kind of thoughts we will have, and workings of spirit. As a man that is up in the air may see a river in its rise, and fountain, and course, and fall of it —seeth it all at once; whereas another which stands by the banks can only see the water as it passeth by. God seeth all things in their fountain and cause, as well as in their issue and event— he seeth all things together; therefore it is not for his own information. But the meaning is, therefore doth God try us, that what is known to him, and yet unknown to ourselves, that that which lodgeth and lieth hid in our heart may be discovered to us. That we may not be conceited of more than we have, and that the evil which before lay hid and was unseen may be cured when it is discovered. And, on the other hand, that grace may not lie sleeping in a dead and inactive habit, but be drawn out into act and view, for his glory and praise.
(2.) God’s tempting is always good, and for good; his tempting is either in mercy or in judgment. In mercy and so when he trieth the graces of his people; or when he means more especially to discover the failings of his people, it is all good. When he tries the graces of his people, there is no doubt of that. When God hath furnished a man with grace, that he may, without any impeachment of his goodness, put him upon trial, and use creatures for that end for which he hath fitted them; as a man which hath made and bouoght a thing may prove it and try the strength of it. Or when the intent of the dispensation is to try their weakness, that is good also, and for good; as when a man tries a leaky vessel, with an intent to make it stanch. So when God tempts us by sharp afflictions, or any other course, it is for good: Heb. xii. 10, ‘He, verily, for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.’ A man that hath a disease upon him, it may be by walking or stirring the humours the disease may appear, it is for good; it is better it should be discovered, that he may in time look after a remedy, than lurk and lie hid in the body to his utter undoing; so it is for good our corruptions and weaknesses should be discovered, that they may be made sound. Ay, but when God brings it in judgment, yet that is for good; that is, for his own glory and his church’s good, though not for the good of the party. For the church’s good, that naughtiness where it is might in time be discovered: Prov. Xxvi. 26, ‘Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be showed before the whole congregation, lest men get a name that they might do religion a mischief. And it is for the glory of God that men may appear what they are. Here is no stain upon God’s justice for all this. He that pierceth a vessel, if it run dreggy with musty or poisonous liquor, the fault is not in him that pierceth it, but in the liquor itself: he that pierceth or broacheth it doth only discover what is within, that if it be unsavoury he may cast it into the kennel. So, it is not the fault of God which pierceth, discovereth, and letteth out our corruption; the fault is in ourselves: we have those things within which are discovered as soon as God puts us upon a trial.
(3.) God tempts no man, as temptation is taken properly for a solicitation to sin: James i. 13, ‘Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.’ Mark, the apostle proves it, that in this sense God cannot tempt, because of the unchangeable holiness of his nature. In temptation we must distinguish between the mere trial, and the solicitation to sin; the mere trial, that is from God; but the solicitation to sin, that is from Satan and ourselves. God solicits no man to sin. It is true, God may try us, trouble us, toss us, exercise our faith, hope, and patience. God is the author of our trouble; but the devil is the author of our sin, who sinneth himself and soliciteth others to sin.
(4.) When we say, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ we do not beg a total exemption from God’s trials, but only a removal of the judgment of them. Not a total exemption, for then we must go out of the world, for while we are here every condition is a trial to us, and every enjoyment. Afflictions and trouble more or less put to trial, and therefore temptation in this sense is a necessary part of that warfare we must encounter and grapple withal while we are in the world. Prosperity tries us, to see if we be then mindful of God when all things succeed well; and adversity tries us, to see if we can patiently depend upon God. But it is the judgment of trials that we deprecate, that they may not come upon us as a judgment, or that our trial may be so moderate that we may stand our ground. When doth a trial come as a judgment? When it is immoderate and beyond our strength, either in a way of prosperity or adversity, but chiefly in a way of adversity; for that is most commonly set out in a way of trial in scripture. When it is immoderate and beyond our strength, 1 Cor. x. 13, God hath promised to his people that ‘they shall not be tempted above that they are able to bear; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that they may be able to bear it.’ God’s conduct is very gentle. As Jacob drove on as the little ones were able to bear, so doth God proportion his dispensations to his people’s strength, not to their deservings, but he considers what they are able to bear. Either God keeps off greater trials, or gives in greater strength; a sweeter sense of his love, or a greater measure of gracious support. A child would sink under that load that a strong back bears without any grudging. Now, this is that we ask of God, according to his promise, that our temptation may be not immoderate and too hard for us. Or else it is a judgment when it proves a provocation to sin; and so God’s temptation, which was meant for our good, we may abuse it, and take occasion thence to sin; as when we murmur under the cross, or turn our worldly comforts into an occasion to the flesh. Now, to prevent the judgment which may be in these temptations; in all the trials which befall us, we should fear more the offence against God than our own smart, or the power of the devil, or any inconvenience that may accrue to us in natural evils which we feel. When we are under afflictions, we should be more solicitous that we do not offend God, that he would keep us from murmuring and dishonouring his name, then we should be about our ease and safety; for this is to prevent the judgment of the temptation. This was Paul’s comfort when he was drawing to the conclusion of his life: 2 Tim. iv. 18, ‘The Lord hath delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, and he shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom.’ And so, in good things that we enjoy, we should fear more offending God with them than the losing of them; for the loss of his favour is more than the loss of our comforts. A man that loseth his worldly portion, this loss may be recompensed; but he that loseth the favour of God, that breach cannot be made up by any worldly comforts whatsoever.
(5.) In passive evils, which are the usual trials of God’s people, we are not to seek them, but to submit to them when they come upon us. We are not to seek them: Mat. xvi. 24, ‘If any man will be my disciple, let him take up his cross.’ When clearly it is our cross, that is, when it lies in our way, and we cannot decline it, then take it up and fit his back to it. So James i. 2, ‘My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations. He doth not say when ye run into them, but fall into them. We are not to draw them upon ourselves. Afflictions are not to be sought and desired, but improved. Christians, we never know when it is well with us: sometimes we question God’s love, because we have no afflictions and trials; anon we are questioning his love, because we have nothing but afflictions. In all these things we should refer ourselves to God; not desire troubles, but bear them patiently and quietly when he lays them upon our backs.
(6.) Again, for those trials which come from God. When God tempts us, or trieth his people in mercy, he hath a great deal of care of them under their trials. As a goldsmith, when he casts his metal into the furnace, he doth not lose it there, and look after it no more but sits, and pries, and looks to see if it be not too hot, that nothing be spilt, nothing lost. So it is said, Mal. iii. 3, ‘And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the Sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. The Lord will observe his people when they are under trial, how to moderate affliction, how to refresh them with seasonable comfort, that all this might better them, and bring them to good.
(7.) Though in our trials we manifest weakness as well as grace, yet that weakness is to be done away. You must remember weakness is manifested that it may be removed, and grace manifested that it may be strengthened. When gold and silver is tried in the furnace, there is not only pure metal discovered, but also the drossy part mingled with it; but it is so discovered that it may be severed from the gold. Such is our trial; it may discover a great deal of dross and sin in us. But this is our comfort, that as it doth discover sin, so it conduceth to mortify sin. Therefore saith Job, chap. xxiii. 10, ‘When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold;’ that is, purified and refined, and having the drossy part eaten out.
(8.) God permits us to be tempted of Satan and his instruments for his glory and our good. For his glory; that his power may be discovered in our preservation, in upholding that grace he hath put into us: 2 Cor. xii. 10, ‘Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.’ We should be glad that God be glorified, though with our great inconvenience. And it is for our good; to correct our pride and vainglory. When Peter presumed of his strength, then God left him to be tempted of the damsel, Mat. xxvi. 33, 70.
(9.) When God permitteth Satan to exercise us, though he suspends the victory, yet if he give us grace to fight and to maintain the combat, it is a great mercy. For so he dealt with Paul when he had to do with the messenger of Satan -(Satan was in that trouble, be it what it will)- he had only this answer, 2 Cor. xii. 9, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Three times he had been with God, and then he gets his answer, and it was only this, ‘My grace, etc. Jesus Christ in his conflict and combat was answered as to support, and so was heard in the things he feared. So if God give strength to the soul, it is an answer, though he do not take off the trial.
Secondly, There are temptations from Satan, as well as from God, who is called the tempter: Mat. iv. 3. Now the devil’s temptations they are evil, and for evil. How doth the devil tempt?
[1.] By propounding objects; as Luke iv. 5, ‘He showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. He had nothing to work upon within, therefore he propounds outward objects. So still the devil tempts us with a curious eye to take in the object, that it may be a bait and snare to the soul. Achan takes notice of it himself: Josh. vii. 21, ‘When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and a wedge of gold, then I coveted them, and took them.’ I saw, I coveted, and I took: the eye awakens desire, and desire that inclines to practise. So Prov. xxiii. 31, ‘Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.’ Unless we shut the windows of the soul, this pestilent plague gets in by the senses. The heart is corrupted by objects that we take in by the senses, as it corrupted Eve, dealt with her first by the sense; the forbidden fruit was full in her way, then the devil sets upon her.
[2.] He tempts by the persuasion of instruments, who are the devil’s spokesmen: thus was Joseph tempted by the enticements and blandishments of his mistress, Gen. xxxix. 7. And many times the devil sets nearest friends and relations to weaken their zeal, and withdraw their hearts from God: Mat. xvi. 23. Saith Christ to Peter, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’ It was Peter said it, yet Christ rebuked Satan, for the devil had a hand in it; he makes one of Christ’s disciples his instrument.
[3.] He doth it by internal suggestion: 1 Chron. xxi. 1, ‘And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel;’ that is, by internal suggestion. John xiii. 2, ‘The devil put it into the heart of Judas to betray him.’ He haunts and pesters the hearts of men by vain thoughts and carnal imaginations. So ‘the god of this world is said to ‘blind their minds,’ 2 Cor. iv. 4.
[4.] By stirring up the humours of our body. When he seeth men inclined to wrath, and angry motions, or lust, the devil joins, and makes the tempest the more violent. He knows what use to make of an angry look, a wanton glance; he knows how to tempt, by awakening the humours of our own body against us.
II. Take some observations here.
(1.) In all sins Satan joineth; he is not idle, but makes use of every inclination of ours; as he sees the tree leaning, he joins issue. But some sins are purely of his suggestion; horrid sins, and such as are so very evil, that they could come from no other but from the devil: such sins as could not be acted by man in an ordinary course of sinning. As Judas his treason: though he were devil enough to plot such a thing, yet it is said, Satan put it into his heart. And such singular diabolical suggestions may be darted into the bosom of believers sometimes; thoughts of atheism, blasphemy, unnatural sins, self-murder, suspicion of the gospel; these things the devil throws in. Therefore, Eph. vi. 16, believers are warned to quench these fiery darts, that the devil hurls into the souls of men.
(2.) Every man is haunted with special temptations, from temper, sex, age, custom, calling, company, course of affairs; these things are often spoken of in scripture. From temper: God makes use of temper; for though he plants all grace in the hearts of the regenerate, yet there are certain graces wherein they are eminent; as Timothy for temperance, Moses for meekness, etc. Thus Paul speaks of the law in his members: Rom. vii. 23. The devil may find forces from the temper of the body to destroy the soul. So also from sex; as lie ‘beguiled Eve,’ 2 Cor. xi. 3. And from age: we read of ‘youthful lusts,’ 2 Tim. ii. 22. And how strong the devil is about young ones: 1 John ii. 13, ‘I have written unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one.’ They are most assaulted with pride, with youthful lusts suitable to their age. So from custom and education: Ps. xviii. 23, ‘I kept myself from mine iniquity.’ Every man hath his iniquity; that is, such as his education and custom hath wrought upon him, which makes the sin prevail over other sins. A child of God hath a predominant sin, not over grace, for that is inconsistent with sincerity; but some master-sin which prevails over the rest according as the channel is cut, so corrupt nature runs, but some in this channel, and some in that: every man hath his special sin, and accordingly the devil plies him. Then our calling is a special temptation: 1 Tim. iii. 6, the apostle speaks that a bishop should ‘not be a novice, lest, being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil;’ – pride, and ostentation of gifts, and vainglory in such public service. Many other sins follow every calling: therefore if you would be skilled in Satan’s enterprises, you must mind temper, age, calling. So company: as a man’s company is, his soul is insensibly tainted. As a man that walks in the sun is tanned before he is aware, so are the souls of men sullied and defiled by carnal company before they be aware. A man would think, of all sins, passion is so uncomely that it should not tempt another man: yet it is said, Prov. xxii. 24, 25, ‘Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man thou shalt not go; lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul:’ for the more accustomed to them, the less odious they seem so by little and little, our spirits are shaped and fitted for such a sin. There are certain sins that are more special temptations. Look, as every disease hath a diet which suits with it, so all sins in the soul. Satan knows what baits we will catch at. It may be, a man that is addicted to the pleasures of the flesh may despise profit, and therefore the devil will not ply him that way. So a man that is addicted to gain despiseth pleasure. The devil suits him with a bait that suits the disease of his soul. It is an opinion the devils have their several wards and quarters; some for such a sort of sinners, others for another sort. Look, as the heathens had several gods (which were indeed devils), as Bacchus, the god of riot, or patron of good-fellowship; and Venus, of wantonness and love; and Mars, the devil of revengeful and angry spirits: and we read of Mammon for wealth: Mat. vi. 24. I know it is a fictio personae, to make the matter more sensible; there is a person feigned. But there may be something of this truth in it, that the devils have several quarters, some to humour the covetous, others enticing the wanton, others lie leigers in taverns and drinking-houses, to draw men to beastly excess; and others about the revengeful, to awaken their rage. But all this, however it be (it is the opinion of some), should make us watchful over our own desires and inclinations, for that is it the devil makes use of to set upon us.
The sin of the devil tempting must be distinguished from our sin consenting. If the devil tempt, and we consent not, it is his sin. The envious man may throw weeds over the garden wall; but if we do not suffer them to root there, it is not the gardener’s fault, but the fault of the envious man: so the devil may fling in temptations, fiery darts, atheistical or blasphemous thoughts; yet if we throw them out with indignation, and give no harbour and entertainment to them there, it is our misery, but the devil’s sin; and therefore, if our hearts abhor them at the very first rising, though they be man’s cross, they will be put upon Satan’s account.
(4.) Satan, if he cannot prevail by the first temptation to draw us to sin, he will seek to prevail by a second or subsequent temptation, to draw us to trouble and discomfort. If he cannot weaken grace, he may molest and disturb our comfort by flinging in a blasphemous thought, which is abhorred by a Christian. If he cannot draw you to deny God, then he will seek to cloud things, that you may suspect your own estate; and thus our way is made wearisome to us. Look, as a candle which sticks to a stone wall, though it cannot burn the wall, yet it smutcheth and defileth it; so the children of God, when the devil seeks to make their temptations stick, though he doth not burn their hearts with these fiery darts of blasphemy and atheism – they catch not there – yet they weaken our comfort; and then his second temptation is to bring us to doubt of God’s love, to doubt of our own faith, and to draw us to impatiency and murmuring at God’s hand. Therefore it should be our care, not only to withstand the devil’s first temptation, but his second also.
(5.) Certainly they cannot stand long that seem to give up themselves to Satan’s snares. How may this be done? Any carnal affection unmortified layeth us open to the devil: 1 Tim. vi. 9, ‘They that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. If a man cherish his worldliness, and do not mortify it, he lieth ready to be seized upon as a ready prey for Satan. Judas, he had the bag, and he lay open to the devil; his worldliness increased upon him, so the devil entereth into him. Again, when we ride into the devil’s quarters and will parley with temptation, when we freely open the windows of the senses unto alluring objects, and can dally with the snare and play about the temptation, then we do but tempt God to leave us, and tempt the devil to surprise us. And therefore ‘be sober, be watchful, for your adversary, the devil, walketh about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, 1 Pet. v. 8. ‘Be sober; what is sobriety? A holy moderation in the use of worldly things. Be sure not to leave any carnal affection unmortified. And then be watchful; take heed not to play about the temptation, nor put yourselves upon occasions of sin, for then we lie open to the devil, and give him an advantage against us. Thus much for the second sort of temptations, such as come from Satan.
The third sort of temptations are those which arise from our own hearts; so we call these urgings and solicitations to sin which we feel in our bosoms.
Concerning this also I shall give some observations.
[1.] If there were no devil to tempt us, yet the heart of man is fruitful enough of all that is evil: Mat. xv. 19, ‘Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies.’ There is a black catalogue, and all comes out of the heart of man. And among the rest, observe, there is murder, which strikes at the life of man; and blasphemy, which strikes at the honour and being of God. Though the devil should stand by and say nothing to us, we have enough within us to put us upon all kind of evil: Jer. xvii. 9, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? As to actual sins, there is a difference; but as to original sin, it is the same in all. All the sins that ever have been or shall be committed in the world, they are virtually in our natures, they are but original sin acted and drawn out this way and that way, as all numbers are but one multiplied: Cain’s murder, Judas’s treason, Julian’s apostasy and enmity to Christ, the seed and root of all is in our nature; and if we were but left to ourselves, and had the same temptations and occasions, we should be as bad as others; such as we would not imagine that ever we should commit is in our heart: 2 Kings viii. 13, ‘Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?’ when he had been told of those horrid cruelties he should act upon the women and children of Israel. No man knows the depth of his own wickedness, if loosened of his chain and the restraints are taken off. At first nature abhors them in the conceit of them; but when God permits us to lie under the temptation, and fair occasion, man is not to be trusted. We see, in this respect, what need there is to pray that God would not leave us under the power of temptation, because the heart of man is prone, naturally inclinable, to all evil. There are new actual sins, but there is no new original sin, that is but one and the same in all persons and at all times; the root of all the mischief which hath been in the world is within us.
[2.] That without the flesh, the world and the devil can have no power over us. A man cannot be compelled to sin against his own consent; he may be compelled to suffer temptation, but he is a sinner by his own choice. The world would not hurt us were it not for lust in the heart: 2 Pet. i. 4, ‘Escaping the corruption of the world through lust.’ I say, it is not the beauty or sweetness of the creature, but lust, which is our ruin and undoing, and that makes the world so dangerous unto us. A spider sucketh poison from the same flower from which a bee would suck honey; the fault is not in the flower, but in the spider: the devil can do nothing unless we give him leave. The fire is kindled in our own bosoms, Satan only doth blow it up into a flame. Saith Nazianzen, we have the coals in our own hearts, the devil doth but come and blow them up: suggestion doth nothing without consent. In vain doth one knock at the door, and none within to look out and make answer; so, all other temptations would he in vain, if there were not somewhat within that would close with what is suggested from Satan: James i. 14, ‘Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed,’ by his own concupiscence. If your hearts did not yield, if you did resist, the devil and the world could not force you. When Satan came to Christ, he might molest him, but he ‘found nothing in him, John xiv. 30; as a glass of pure water may be shaken, but there is no filth, no mud there discovered. But now, the best of men, they have somewhat within them, naughtiness and corruption enough in their own hearts, upon which Satan may work and inflame them with his fiery darts. In short, we may commit sin without Satan, but Satan cannot betray us to sin without ourselves; cannot have his desire upon us without us.
[3.] The flesh doth not only make us flexible and yielding to temptations, but is active and stirring in our hearts, to force and impel us thereunto. There is ‘a law in our members, Rom. vii. 23, a powerful active principle within us, that is always urging us to sin. We think and speak too gently of our own corrupt hearts when we think the corruption is sleepy, and works not until it be irritated by outward objects and Satan’s suggestions. No, there is an active, stirring principle within us, that poureth out sin as a fountain doth waters, though nobody comes to drink of them; as Gen. vi. 5, ‘Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually.’ There is a mint in man’s heart that is always at work coining evil thoughts, evil desires, evil motions; and ‘the flesh lusteth against the spirit,’ Gal. v. 17: And ‘Sin wrought in me all manner of concupiscence,’ Rom. vii. 8. Though there were no other occasion to irritate, but God’s law and the motions of his Spirit, yet there is a continual fermentation wrought by these corrupt humours in our hearts. Natural concupiscence doth not lie idle in them, but is active and warring; and the objects that are in the world, and the solicitations of the devil make it more violent.
[4.] The temptations of the flesh and the world go in conjunction, and do mutually help one another. And therefore it is said, 1 John ii. 16, ‘For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes,’ etc. Mark, whatever is in the world, he doth not mention the object, but the lusts, because these are complicated and folded up together in the temptation. The bait is the world; but the appetite and desire we have from the flesh. And this is intimated in that passage, James i. 14, ‘Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.’ There are two words there, drawn away, and enticed: the drawing away notes the vehemency of desire or inclination of our own hearts; and the enticement, that is from the object. Both ways doth corruption work, by force and flattery. The great bait is pleasure, the contentment that we take in outward enjoyments. And we are carried out to it by the vehement propension of corrupt nature.
[5.] This vehement propension of corrupt nature to outward things set at work by a hope of gaining them, or a fear to lose them; and so we are assaulted on every hand, by right-hand and left-hand temptations. By right-hand temptations, from the flatteries and comforts of the world, which are the more dangerous because of their easy insinuation into, and strong operation upon our hearts, and so our comforts prove a snare to us, and ‘an occasion to the flesh,’ as the apostle saith, Gal. v. 13. And then there are left-hand temptations, which arise from shame or fear of worldly evils, as the other did arise from a desire or hope of good. So the apostle: Gal. vi. 12, ‘As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.’ That was their temporising then to comply with the Jews, who had some national privileges under the Roman government, and had better security to their worldly interests than possibly thorough Christians could have. Now, to avoid both these, the apostle, when he presseth Christians to all those graces which are necessary, he presseth them to temperance and patience: 2 Pet. i. 5, 6, ‘Add to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience. Both these are armour of proof against worldly temptations; temperance against the delights, and patience against the evils and troubles of the world. It was never yet so well with the world but that Christians (those that are so in good earnest, that mean to go to heaven and keep a good conscience) will be assaulted on both sides.
[6.] That there is no avoiding either of these snares and temptations as long as any carnal affection remaineth unmortified. For until a man be dead to worldly comforts, and hardened against worldly sorrows, he doth but lie naked and open to Satan: 1 Tim. vi. 9, ‘He that will be rich, falls into temptation and a snare.’ And what is said of riches, the same is true of pleasure: he that is vehemently addicted that way will soon come to put God out of the throne, and make his belly and his pleasure his God: 2 Tim. iii. 4, ‘Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.’ Any lust that is cherished and indulged will betray us. As for honour: John v. 44, ‘How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?’ True faith cannot be planted in that heart that is not purified, until there be a prevailing interest established for Christ over all carnal affections. Grace bears no sway in us, and hath no power over us. The ambition and love of respect from men will necessarily make us unsound in the profession of godliness. Well, then, it stands us upon to allow and cherish no secret sin, but to observe what are the tender parts of our hearts, or which way our corruptions lie, where subjection to God is most apt to stick with us: Ps. cxix. 133, ‘Order my steps in thy word; and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.’ Though we seem to have a zeal in other things, yet if one lust be indulged, we shall soon swerve from our duty. True obedience to God is inconsistent with the dominion of any one lust or corrupt affection. I say, though a man, out of some slender and insufficient touch of religion upon his heart, may go right for a while, and do many things gladly, yet that corruption which is indulged, and under the power of which a man lieth, will at length draw him off from God; and therefore no one sin should have dominion over us. When doth sin reign or have dominion over us? When we do not endeavour to mortify it, and to cut off the provisions that may feed that lust. Chrysostom’s observation is: The apostle doth not say, Let it not tyrannise over you, but, Let it not reign over you; that is, when you suffer it to have a quiet reign in your hearts.
[7.] The more we sin upon the mere impulsion of the flesh, and without an external temptation, the more heinous is our offence, for then the heart is carried of its own accord to sin: Ezek. xvi. 33, 34, ‘They give gifts to all whores; but thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hirest them, that they may come unto thee for thy whoredoms. And the contrary is in thee from other women in thy whoredoms, whereas none followeth thee to commit whoredoms: and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given unto thee, therefore thou art contrary.’ These are expressions to set forth their idolatry. But that which is intended there is this: that they were not desired or solicited, but merely carried to sin by their own proper motion, which exceedingly aggravateth sin. Why? For then it is a sign the heart is carried of its own accord by its own weight, as a heavy body is moved downward, not by the impression of outward three, but by its own natural propension.
Now, when do men thus merely sin upon the impulsions of the flesh? I will instance in three cases:-
(1.) When the temptation is so small and inconsiderable that it should not sway with any reasonable man. It is said in Amos ii. 6, ‘They sold the poor for a pair of shoes.’ And ‘for a piece of bread will that man transgress,’ Prov. xxviii. 21. When pleasure and profit is so inconsiderable as that it could not rationally make up a temptation, then men sin merely upon the corruptions of their own flesh. When the devil hath to do with great souls, such as Christ was, he propounds the glory of all the world: Mat. iv. Oh! but a lesser price will serve the turn with those that are deeply engaged already, that are biased with their own propension. For instance, a little ease and carnal satisfaction, a slothful humour, is enough to take them off from the sweetness of communion with God, and the pleasure and contentment that they might enjoy with him in holy exercises. Look, as in general, it is a great aggravation of all sin that for such paltry trifles we turn the back upon God and his grace. All sinners do so; they part with all their hopes by Christ for a mess of pottage, for a little present pleasure; that is profaneness indeed: Heb. xii.16. So in particular things, when the smallest temptation seems to be strong enough to draw off our hearts from our duty, to bring us to a sin of omission, when it is needful to go and converse with God in secret; a little ease and sloth hangs upon us, and we cannot shake it off: or when we are drawn to a sin of commission by an inconsiderable matter, by the smallest worldly interest as can be mentioned, for a piece of bread, and a pair of shoes.
(2.) When men tempt themselves, or provoke Satan to tempt them. As those which ‘make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof,’ Rom. xiii. 14; that cater for their lusts, and contrive how to feed them, and how to cherish those inordinate affections in their hearts; that run into the devil’s quarters, that bespeak a temptation; or, as it is, James v. 5, that ‘nourish their hearts, as in a day of slaughter.’ To nourish our hearts, is to feed our lusts, to put strength into the enemy’s hand. When a commander sent to his prince to know how he should keep such a rebellious town in order, he sent him this answer: That he should starve the dog, and strengthen the clog; that he should weaken the city, and strengthen the garrison, that was his meaning. Truly, what was his advice in that outward case, that is the duty of a Christian; to weaken his lusts, and still to be strengthening grace. He should be increasing the better part, and putting the spirit in heart by godly exercises; by treasuring up promises, getting arguments and fresh encourage meats against sin and by weakening the flesh, starving and cutting off provisions for the flesh. But, on the contrary, when men cater for the flesh, provide for it, indulge carnal distempers, and feed them with that diet which they affect, these tempt themselves, and seem willing to lie under their bondage. and to be glad of it.
(3.) When a man is a sinner to his loss, and hath reasons of nature to dissuade him, as well as reasons of grace, not only religion, but his civil interests, would counsel him to do otherwise; as he that brings a blot upon his name or ruin upon his estate by evil courses; when men draw on iniquity with a cart rope, as the expression is, Isa. v. 18; that is, when it is not pleasure, but a very toil and burden and temporal inconvenience to them to be sinful; that industriously make it their business; those that are ‘holden with the cords of their own sins,’ Prov. v. 22. He speaks of such as did bring temporal inconveniences upon themselves, as did consume their flesh and their own bodies; these certainly are those that have cause to complain of their own hearts, not to put it on Satan, but themselves.
III. Having opened the nature of temptations, I come now to give the reasons why this is so usual an evil we encounter with in the world – temptation.
1. God permits it for his own glory, to discover the power, the freeness and riches of his grace, that men may be driven the more earnestly to sue out their peace in the name of Jesus Christ. Luther propounds this reason: Though man be prone to sin of himself of his own accord, yet God suffers the tempter to be in the world, because man is backward to seek mercy and grace by Christ; and therefore God urgeth him with sore temptations. Certainly this reason was given by him not amiss. You know, when Paul felt those paroxysms and sad counter-buffs in his own spirit, this makes him bless God for Jesus Christ: Romn. vii. 25. ‘But thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ It makes him reflect upon the grace of God in Christ. We keep off from the throne of grace till temptations drive us thither. As when the sheep wander, the shepherd lets loose his dog upon them; not to worry them, but to bring them back to the fold again: so God lets loose Satan to drive us to himself.
2. For the trial of that grace which he bath wrought in us. Grace doth better appear in temptation than out of it. The greatness of the woman of Canaan’s faith would never have been discovered, had it not been for Christ’s answer and denial: Mat. xv. 2.5—28 then, ‘0 woman, great is thy faith.’ The glory of that grace which God hath wrought in his people would not be discovered so much, were it not for the great trials he puts them upon: Heb. xi. 17, ‘By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac. Before we go to heaven we shall have our trials, and shall be tried in our dearest comforts, and choicest worldly contentments; and all to see what faith we have, and what loyalty to God in the midst of these trials. A great tempest discovereth the goodness of a ship and skill of the pilot; and so these great trials they discover the soundness of our hearts, and the fruit of that grace which God hath wrought in us. Gold is most tried in the fire, and discovered to be pure and perfect. Stars that lie hid in the day shine in the night. We have but dry notions of the comforts of Christianity, and make them matter of talk, until we are put upon great trials, then is our belief and sense of them proved. A gilded potsherd may shine until it comes to scouring, but then the varnish and paint is worn off. The valour and worth of a soldier is not known in times of peace and when he is out of action. When we are put to some difficulty and straits, then is faith seen. Now this is a very pleasing spectacle to God, to see them approve their faith and loyalty to his majesty.
3. Temptations, as they serve to prove, so also to humble us, that we may never be proud of what we have, or conceited of what we have not. As Paul, that he might not be exalted above measure, he was buffeted with a messenger of Satan: 2 Cor. xii. 7. Poor bladders we are, soon blown up and swollen into vanity and vain conceits of ourselves, therefore had need be pricked, that we may let out those swelling winds. A ship that is laden with precious ware, needs to be ballasted with wood, stones, or contemptible stuff. But why will God humble us by temptations, and such kind of temptations as are solicitations to evil? Answer. Spiritual evils need a spiritual cure. Outward afflictions they humble, but not so much as temptations do; they are not so conducible to humble a gracious heart as temptations to sin. Why? For then the breach is made upon our souls, and the assault is given to that which a gracious man counts to be dear, and therefore these are suffered to come upon us. If anything will humble a child of God, this will do it. It may be he may bear up under losses tolerably, but when his peace comes to be assaulted, and his grace, this will humble him to purpose. Worldly men, they value their estate by their outward interest, but a child of God by his peace of conscience, and his thriving in grace. Oh, this wounds him to the heart, when in either of these he suffers loss; this sets him a-praying and groaning to God, as Paul groans bitterly when he felt those gripes of sin, and those reluctances in his heart: ‘0 wretched man!’ etc. Afflictions, they conduce to ‘humble and prove us,’ Deut. viii. 16. And besides, too, the Lord loves to make the cause of our mischief to be the means of our cure. This giveth us the sight of some corruption we saw not before.
4. God permits this exercise to his people to conform us to Christ. We must pledge him in his own cup, it must go round; he himself was tempted: Heb. ii. 7. Christ hath felt the weight, burden, and trouble of temptations, and knows the danger of them. Now the disciple is not above his lord, nor the scholar above his master. The devil, that did set upon Christ will not be afraid of us.
5. By temptations to sin God mortifieth sin; not only that sin to which we are tempted, but others, that we may not be so heedless. When we have smarted under temptation, we are not so indulgent to corruption as before; we do not let our senses nor affections run loose. As David speaks, that he got this by his fall: Ps. ii. 6 ‘In the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.’ Oh, I shall be wiser and more circumspect for this all my life. When men have smarted they grow more cautious; and so, by the overruling and good hand of God, our sins do us service in our passage to heaven, as well as our graces; and God’s children may say, they had sinned more if they had sinned less: they are more acquainted with the wiles and depths of Satan and naughtiness of their own hearts, and so are more solicitous.
6. To make us more meek to others: Gal. vi. 1, ‘If any man be fallen, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.’ We are very apt to be severe and fierce upon the failings of others; but now, when we are tempted ourselves, we learn more pity and compassion towards them. Severe censurers are left to some great temptation, that they may be acquainted with their own frailties; they are tempted to some sins, to which their hearts were not so inclinable before. Well, then, that we may pity others, mourn over them, and have a fellow-feeling of their condition, God will make us know the heart of a tempted man, that we may have more compassion over poor tempted souls. Possibly that may be a part of the apostle’s sense: 2 Cor. i. 6, ‘Whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.’ Persons in office in the church, they are afflicted and tempted; and, it may be, have a greater measure of afflictions and temptations, that they may show more pity to other souls. Therefore Luther was wont to say, three things made a minister, viz., prayer, meditation, and temptation. When he is much in communion with God, much in the study of the word, and hath been exercised in temptation, then he will be of a tender and compassionate heart over others; and that he may help them out of the snares of the devil, he is more fitted to his work by temptation.
7. It occasions much experience of the care and providence of God, and the comforts of his promises. A man doth not know what the comforts of faith mean till he be exercised by temptation. And spiritual experiences will countervail all other troubles. This is an hour of temptation: Rev. iii. 10. What should we do in this hour of temptation? Be not over-confident, nor over-diffident, in an hour when God casts us upon trying times. Not over-confident, in casting yourselves upon needless troubles without cause: Mat. xiv. 28. Peter said, ‘Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.’ Peter thought he could do anything in the strength of Christ’s word; Peter seeks a call before it be given him. Nor yet be over-backward and diffident to own God, and the truths of God. As Paul taxed Peter for dissembling: Gal. ii 12. When those false brethren were likely to bring great trouble, Peter dissembled, and runs with them, and separates himself from the purer sort of Christians, he is taxed there for it. We should not run into them without cause, nor yet be ashamed to own the ways of God, those which are most agreeable to his holy word. Not be solicitous so much about events as duties; for God is far more concerned than we, and hath a greater interest than we can have. What is our interest, and the interest of our families and our children, to the great interest of God, the safety of his children, the safety of his glory, and cause of his church? Be not troubled about events, for all our business is to understand our duty, that we may not sin, but keep blameless in the hour of temptation.
Use. If temptations be a usual evil, wherewith we encounter in the present world, then –
First, We should not be dismayed at them.
Secondly, We should be prepared for them.
First, We should not be dismayed at them, as if some strange thing did befall us. When we enter into the lists with Satan, resist the devil. Why? 1 Pet. v. 9, For all those things are accomplished in your brethren that are in the flesh. They are all troubled with a busy devil, a naughty world, and a corrupt heart! And why should we look for a total exemption, and to go to heaven in an unusual way?
That we may not be dismayed by temptation, I shall give you several considerations.
[1.] We took an oath to fight under Christ’s banner. Baptism it is sacramentum militare, our military oath, which we took to fight in Christ’s cause, against all the oppositions and difficulties we meet with in the world: 1 Pet. iii. 21. The apostle calls baptism ‘The answer of a good conscience towards God.’ An answer supposeth a question. It is an allusion to the questions propounded by the catechist to the catechumen. When they came to desire baptism, they asked them, Abrenuncias? Dost thou renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil? And they answered, Abrenuncio, I do renounce them. So Credis? Dost thou believe in Jesus Christ with all thy heart? as Philip propounds the question to the eunuch; and they answered, Credo, I do believe. Wilt thou undertake to walk in all holy obedience? and the answer is, I do undertake before God. Conscience, which is God’s deputy, puts the question, in God’s name, to those which take the seals of his covenant, Are you willing to renounce the flesh and worldly vanities? Will you cleave to God, and his ways, whatever they cost you? Whosoever makes this answer, is supposed that he makes it knowingly, that he doth understand the difficulties of salvation, and what he must meet with in his way to heaven. So the apostle saith, ‘You are not debtors to the flesh,’ Rom. viii. 12. A man is a debtor to another, either by the obligation of some received benefit, or by his solemn promise and engagement; both are of use in that place. They that would seek the well-being of their souls, need not gratify the flesh. They that are engaged to walk after the Spirit, and come under the bond of a holy oath, and that are thus solemnly engaged, cannot expect to carry on the profession of godliness without conflict and multiplied difficulties.
[2.] That is not the happiest condition which is most quiet and free from the temptations of Satan; for Luke xi. 21, ‘When the strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace.’ When the devil hath quiet possession, he doth not trouble men. The sea must needs be smooth and calm when wind and tide go one way. There are some which suspect their condition, because of continual temptation; and others, because they have no temptation. Neither is a safe rule, for the time of our conflict may not yet be come. But if any have cause to suspect themselves, it is the last sort; for they that are least troubled may be most hurt; they are quiet and secure, because Satan hath got them into his snare, and hath a quiet dominion in their souls.
[3.] Jesus Christ himself was tempted, and therefore we should not be dismayed with temptations. Upon several accounts is this a comfort to us; partly, as it shows that we cannot look for an exemption, for the captain of our salvation was thus exercised, Heb. ii. 10. Be not disconsolate, it becomes good soldiers to follow their captain. We are to pledge him in this cup. He was tempted, therefore we shall be tempted. Partly and chiefly, because now he is more likely to pity us. It is said, Heh. ii. 18, ‘Wherefore he is able to succour those that are tempted.’ Jesus Christ hath felt the weight and trouble of temptations, therefore sure he will pity us if we lie under griefs and dangers; as a man that hath been shipwrecked himself is the more likely to pity others in their distress when they have lost all. One that knows evils by guess and imagination, knows them only at a distance, and doth not know how evil they are; but he that knows them by experience, he knows them at hand, and by such a smart sense as must needs leave a deep stroke and impression upon the soul. So Jesus Christ, that hath had an experimental knowledge, that knows the heart of a tempted man, can more feelingly succour those that are tempted; his heart becomes tender by experience; he knows the danger and troubles we are subject unto; therefore be not dismayed. And partly too, because by suffering this evil in his own person, he hath pulled out the sting of temptation. Christ sanctified every condition that he passed through; his being poor hath pulled out the sting of poverty. It is the more comportable now to a godly poor man, one that hath an interest in Christ. His dying hath pulled out the sting of death; so that what is to him a prison (Isa. liii. 8, ‘He shall be taken from prison and from judgment) is to us a bed of ease: Isa. lvii. 2, ‘They shall rest in their beds;’ so his being tempted hath unstung temptations, and hath made them not so grievous. And partly too, as he hath directed us how to stand out, and with what kind of weapons to foil Satan. Christ, that is a pattern of doing and suffering, is also a pattern of resisting. He that left us an example of doing the will of God, and of suffering with meekness, and when he was reviled, reviled not again; so in resisting temptations hath he left us an example, hath taught us how to grapple with the devil, and in what manner to repress his temptation; therefore we should not be altogether dismayed.
[4.] Consider the comforts of the tempted. Abundantly hath God provided for his servants in their conflicts.
(1.) Jesus Christ, our general, the captain of our salvation, in whose quarrel we are engaged, hath overcome all our enemies, we are interested in his victory: John xvi. 33, ‘in the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ We may have many pressing and searching troubles, but the sting of them is gone. Non pugna sublata est, sed victoria: Christ hath not taken away the combat, we must fight; but the victory is sure, he hath overcome the world. This is our comfort when we are full of faintings and fears, that all things are vanquished and overcome by Christ; that though they terrify us, yet they shall not hurt us. Though Christ will not exempt us from battle, yet we have to do with the devil, the world, and death, which are all vanquished enemies.
(2.) He hath a tender sense and knowledge of our estate. Christ saith to Peter, ‘Satan hath a desire to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not,’ Luke xxii. 32. Christ’s love and mercy is never more at work for his people than when they are most assaulted by Satan; then is he interceding for them: John xiii. 1, Jesus having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. When Christ was about to go to heaven, he thought, My own are to be left in the world, they are exposed to great temptation; and that set his heart a-work, as if he had said, Poor creatures! they are undone if I help them not. So, Zech. iii. 1, 2, ‘And he showed me Joshua, the high priest, standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, 0 Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jesusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?’ ‘And he showed me!’ Our whole case and danger it is clearly known to Christ. He knows how Satan molests and troubles you in your approaches to God; how he seeks to divert your thoughts, to weaken your confidence. We have a friend and advocate that puts forth the strength of his mediation and intercession, and is zealous and affectionate for the welfare of his people. ‘The Lord, that hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee.
(3.) He is engaged in the battle, and fights with us, by renewing the strength of his own grace: Phil. iv. 13, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’ He gives relief and help, according to the nature of the conflict. If there be duty to be done, burden to be borne, or battle to be fought, Christ is giving in supply. As the olive-trees (Zech. iv. 11, 12) were always dropping into the lamps, so is he dropping in strength and grace into the heart: Ps. xvi. 8, ‘I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. When a man hath an able second, he doth with the more courage go to the conflict. God is on our right hand, he is our second; his grace comes into the combat, and then the field cannot be lost. If we would exercise faith in God we might be the more confident.
(4.) He will reward us when we have done. Hold fast to the end, and I will give thee a crown of life, a garland of immortality, that shall never wither. If you will but hold out, continue to fight the good fight of faith, there will a time of triumph come. He that is now a soldier shall be a conqueror, when the crown of righteousness shall be put upon his head, 2 Tim. iv. 8. And mark that: Rom. xvi. 20, ‘And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.’
It is troublesome to be in the world, but shortly God shall bruise Satan. Mark, he doth not only say, God shall tread Satan, but tread him under your feet, triumph over him. As Joshua called upon his companions, Come set your feet upon the necks of these kings, when they were hid in the cave; so the God of peace shall tread Satan under your feet shortly. Then your comfort will be greater, the more dangers you have gone through. As travellers, when they are come to their inn, and to their home, they sweetly remember the trouble and danger of the road; so, when we are come to heaven, these temptations will increase our rejoicing, and our triumph in God.
(5.) Even before the battle a believer may be sure of victory. In other fights the event is uncertain. Non aeque glorietur accinctus, ac discinctus, ‘Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off,’ 1 Kings xx. 11. When a field is won then they will rejoice. But a believer, when he goes to fight, is sure to have the best of it beforehand, in bello, the war, though not in pradio, the particular conflict. Why? Because the Father and Jesus Christ are stronger than all his enemies; they cannot pluck the believer out of his hands: John x. 28, 29, ‘I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.’ This is the privilege which Christ conferreth upon his sheep, upon those which have an interest in him; though they have many shakings and tossings in their condition, yet their final perseverance is certain. Christ is so unchangeable in the purposes of his love, ‘I will give to them eternal life; and so invincible in the power of his grace, ‘None shall pluck them out of my Father’s hand;’ nothing shall be able to hinder their perseverance. Now, though the fight be long and troublesome, yet this is one of God’s encouragements, you are sure of victory at last. Therefore how much doth it concern us to get an interest in Christ, that we may keep on in this way and in this hope.
Secondly, Let us be provided and prepared against temptations. And to this end I shall –
First, Give some directions how to resist temptations in general.
Secondly, What to do in a special hour of temptation which comes upon the world:- When there are terrors without, and we know not what evil may be a-coming, and our hearts are full of doubt, how we may support and bear up ourselves.
First, To direct you as to temptations in general.
[1.] You must be completely armed: Eph. vi. 11, ‘Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Not a piece only, but the whole armour of God, otherwise you will never come off with honour and safety from the spiritual conflict. The poets feign of their Achilles that he was vulnerable only in the heel, and there he got his death-wound. A Christian, though he be never so well furnished in other parts, yet if any part be left naked, you are in danger. Our first parents were wounded in their heel. Who would have thought, that they which had such vast knowledge of God and his creatures, that they should be enticed by appetite? And Solomon, who had the upper part of his soul so well guarded, that he should be enticed by women? To see men of great knowledge to be unmortified and miscarry by their sensual appetite, is sad. A Christian must have no saving grace wanting: 2 Pet. i. 5, ‘Add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge, etc. There is all the graces, and they must come out in their turn. We need faith and virtue, zeal and holiness; and knowledge to guide it, and patience to arm it against the troubles of the present life; and we need temperance to moderate our affections to our worldly enjoyments; and godliness, that we may be frequent in communion with God; and brotherly-kindness, that we may preserve peace among our brethren, and may not make fractions and ruptures in the church; and we need charity, that we may be useful to all that are about us. There is use and work for all graces, one time or other: sometimes we shall be tempted to a neglect of God, at other times we shall be tempted to make a breach upon brotherly-kindness, at other times there will be a breach of charity. Sometimes the devil seeks to tempt us to fleshly wickedness, therefore we need temperance; sometimes to spiritual wickedness, to error, therefore we need knowledge; sometimes to raging with despair, then we need faith. We need the whole armour of God, for Satan hath his various ways of battery and assault: sometimes through ignorance we miscarry and run into error; sometimes for want of faith we run into despair and discomfort; sometimes for want of temperance violent corrupt lusts overset the soul.
[2.] We must often pray to God for renewed influences; we must not only get habits of grace, but pray for a renewed influence. It is notable, next to the spiritual armour, the apostle mentioneth prayer: Eph. vi. 18, ‘Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance.’ We never receive so much from God upon earth as to stand in need of no more. And therefore though you put on the whole armour of God, yet ‘praying always with all supplication in the Spirit.’ Why? Because without the Lord’s special assistance, whereby he actuates those graces, we can never defend ourselves nor offend the adversaries, or do anything to purpose in the spiritual life. Strength of grace inherent will not bear us out against new assaults. Habitual grace it needs actual influence; partly, that these graces may be applied and excited to work: Phil. ii. 13, ‘He giveth to will and to do.’ God giveth to do; that is, excites that strength you have, and carrieth it out to work; and then that it may be directed in work: 2 Thes. iii. 5, ‘And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.’ Every time we would make use of the helmet of salvation, when we would lift up the head and wait for the mercy of God. The Lord direct you; we must be directed: and not only so, but that it may be supplied with new strength, for it is said, Isa. xl. 29, He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no power he increaseth strength. And he doth continue it: Luke xxii. 32, ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.’ Thus will God keep us in dependence for those liberal aids and constant supplies of his grace, without which we cannot use the grace that we have.
[3.] You must resist: 1 Pet.v.9, ‘Whom resist, steadfast in the faith;’ James iv. 7, ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ Stand your ground, and then Satan falls.
In all those assaults, Satan hath only weapons offensive, as fiery darts; none defensive. We have not only the sword of the Spirit, which is an offensive weapon, but the shield of faith, that is a defensive piece of armour; therefore your safety lieth in resisting.
Now, this resistance must be:-
(1.) Not faint and cold, but strong and vehement.
(2.) Thorough and total.
(3.) Constant and perpetual.
(1.) Not faint and cold. Some kind of resistance may be made by general and common grace. The light of nature will rise up in defiance of many sins, especially at first; but this must be earnest and vehement; it is against the enemies of your soul. Paul’s resistance was with serious dislikes and deep groans: Rom. vii. 15, 24, ‘The evil that I hate;’ and ‘0 wretched man! how shall I be delivered?’ In most cases, a detestation or peremptory denial is enough. When the devil tempts Christ to worship him: Mat. iv. 10, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’ In other cases, there must be serious disputes and repulses. When Eve speaks faintly and coldly, the devil renews his assaults with more violence: Gen. iii. 1—3, ‘Hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. She speaks there warmly and with too impatient a resentment of the restraint, and too cold in the commination and threatening. Therefore the devil works upon her, when he saw she amplifieth the restraint; for she saith more indeed: ‘We must neither eat nor touch it.’ A faint denial is a kind of grant, and therefore your repulse to Satan must be vehement and strong. In many cases, slight Satan — answer with indignation; as though a dog barks, yet the traveller goes by: Satan cannot endure contempt. At other times, argue for God strongly. Now, the great argument that quickens you to this lively and vehement resistance is, to consider thy soul is in danger, and all thy eternal concernments. So some expound that, Eph. vi. 12, ‘We fight not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places;’ in ‘heavenly places’ it is in the original. No worldly concernments must go so near as that which concerns the eternal good and salvation of your souls. What would the devil have from thee but thy soul and thy precious enjoyments, thy peace of conscience, communion with God, thy hopes of eternal life? And when Satan comes, and bids nothing but worldly vanities, we should repel them with indignation. A merchant that hath a precious commodity, and a chapman bids him a base price, he puts up his wares with indignation, and will not so much as regard him or hear him; so when the devil comes, and would cheat you of your precious enjoyments, you should repel him with indignation, when there is such base and unworthy trifles to come in competition with your great hopes: as Christ, Mat. xvi. 26, ‘What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ What! shall I lose my soul, my hopes, and happiness and all for such paltry things, for a little temporal advantage?
(2.) It must be a thorough and total resistance: when you yield, the devil encroacheth upon you. We are bid, in the Canticles, to ‘take the little foxes,’ to dash Babylon’s brats in pieces: we should not yield to Satan a little. The devil at first cannot hope to prevail for greater things, therefore he seems more modest in his temptations; ay, but lesser sticks set the greater on fire: when ye entertain lesser temptations, this kindles in your souls, and it is easily blown up into a great flame in your conscience. At first, when the devil came to our first parents, ‘Hath God said?’ and then, ‘You shall not surely die.’ ‘Hath God said you shall not eat of the fruit of the garden?’ The first temptation was more modest. The approaches of Satan to the soul are gradual — he asks but a little; ay, but it is a great matter if we grant it. Consider, the evil of temptation is better kept out than got out. The stone on the top of the hill, when it begins to roll downward, it is a hard thing to stay it; we cannot say how far it will go. Saith the deceived heart, I will yield but little, and never yield again. The devil will carry thee further and further, until he hath left no tenderness in thy conscience. As many that thought to venture but a shilling or two, yet, by the secret witchery of gaining, they play away their estate, clothes and all; so many that think they will sin but little at first, at last sin away all principles of conscience and profession of godliness.
(3.) It must not be temporary, for a while, but perpetual. It concerns us not only to stand out against the first assault of Satan, but a long siege. Satan, what he cannot gain by argument, seeks to procure by importunity. But ‘resist him,’ saith the apostle, ‘steadfastly in the faith,’ 1 Pet. v. 9. As his instrument spake to Joseph, ‘from day to day, she ceased not,’ Gen. xxxix. 10. Deformed objects, when accustomed to them, seem not so odious; so the devil hopes to prevail at last, at least temptation will not seem so odious. But you must keep your zeal to the last, as we rate away an importunate beggar that will not be answered: to yield at last is to lose the glory of the conflict. Grace must not only have its work, but ‘its perfect work,’ James i. 4; so let all our graces, temperance, godliness, and brotherly kindness, have, their perfect work.
[4.] There is required watchfulness: 1 Pet. v. 8, ‘Be sober, be vigilant.’ You that are not ignorant of Satan’s devices should watch that you give not him an advantage, 2 Cor. ii. 11; nor an occasion, 2 Cor. xi. 12, lest Satan tempt you; nor a pretence, Gal. v. 13, to the flesh. Certainly, he that would not be foiled needs a great deal of holy moderation, and constant jealousy over his heart; he had need to guard his senses: Ps. cxix. 37, ‘Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity;’ and to look to his company: Ps. cxix. 115, ‘Depart from me, ye evil-doers, for I will keep the commandments of my God;’ and to avoid all occasions of sin, not rush into them, but keep out of the way: Prov. iv. 14, ‘Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men;’ for this is to ride into the devil’s quarters, to run into the mouth of danger. Heretofore these were wholesome instructions, and why should they not be so now? The devil is not less subtle, or sin less odious and dangerous; only we are more foolhardy, therefore stand not at such a distance as we should from occasions. It is easier to avoid the occasion than the sin when occasion is offered; as it is easier for a bird to fly from the snare than when entangled, to avoid danger. Therefore, when you run into harm’s way, you tempt Satan to tempt; and when you look not to yourselves, it is just with God to let you fall into the snare.
Secondly, There are special times of temptation, when Christians should look to themselves. There is an evil day: Eph. vi. 13, ‘That ye may be able to stand in the evil day.’ And there is an hour of temptation upon the world: Rev. iii. 10, ‘I will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world.’ There are certain times when God is proving what men will do, and when the devil is likely to make a great advantage of our discontents and afflictions, when things fall cross to our desires, and we know not what evil waits for us; how should we do to behave ourselves?
[1.] Be not over-confident or over-diffident. Not over-confident, in running beyond the bounds of our calling, to cast ourselves into dangers and hazards of temptation. Nor over-diffident, by base flying from, or giving way when God calls for valiant resistance. Both ways is the devil likely to assault us; either by making us foolhardy. So Satan seeks to drive us beyond the bounds of our calling, to put us out of our place, that we may be a prey to him. As men use to trouble the water, that they may rouse the fish, and draw them into the snare, and drive them out of places of safety where they rest; so the devil seeks to put us out of our safety. Peter would needs come to Christ: Mat. xiv. 28, ‘Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water; and we see he sinks before he could accomplish his purpose. So when we are over-confident, and run out of our calling upon hazards, then we are ever and anon ready to sink. But we should not turn back when God calls us to a valiant resistance: ‘Should such a man as I flee?’ Neh. vi. 11. Observe Peter’s dastardliness when he ventures without a call into the priest’s hail; a question of the damsel’s overturns him. He that was so cowardly when he was out of his way, look upon his boldness when he was in his work: Acts iv. 7 unto ver. 13, ‘When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, they marvelled.’ John was the disciple of love, and Peter was the fearful disciple; yet how full of boldness, courage, and zeal when they were called and singled out to give proof of the reality of God’s grace. And therefore we should never be over-forward, nor over-backward, but own God in his truth when we are in our calling. Let not Satan bring you out of your place to cast yourselves as a prey to him.
[2.] In an hour of temptation, we should be more solicitous about duties than events, and about sins than dangers. As to events, God is concerned as well as you, and he will order them for his own glory. It should be your great care that you may be kept blameless to his heavenly kingdom: 2 Tim. iv. 17, 18, ‘The Lord, that hath delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom.’ However God deal with you as to events, and whatever dangers attend you, this should be your care mainly, that you may not sin, but be kept blameless. David often begged direction, that he might be guided in his trouble, and not falter, and do anything unseemly.
[3.] Be more jealous of Satan’s wiles than of his open assaults. Natural courage, and the bravery of a common and ordinary resolution, together with deep engagement of credit and interest, may do much to make us stand out against assaults, against open force and violence of evil men; but there needs a great deal of judgment to stand out against the wiles and crafts of the devil. Flesh and blood will not so easily bear us out against the secret ensnarings of the heart. The young prophet doth thunder out his message against the king, 1 Kings xiii. 3, yet was enticed by the wiles of the old prophet. So we may stand out against an open assault and apparent violence, but take heed of the secret wiles of Satan.
[4.] The wiles of Satan are to enforce and draw us into those corruptions which are incident to the season. Here is the great point of spiritual wisdom, to be seasoned in our mortification, and to withstand the spiritual evil that is apt to grow upon us in the time of our fears: Ps. lvi. 3, ‘What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.’ Then our great business is, to cherish our dependence upon God, to prevent distrust and unbelieving thoughts of God’s providence. As, on the other side, in a time when we are likely to be corrupted with ease and prosperity, then our business is to watch against security and deadness of heart, which is apt to grow upon us. As Nazianzen said, When things go prosperous with me, I read the Lamentations of Jeremiah, I remember the mournful passages which befall the people of God, and that is my cure. So to prevent despondency in a time of fears, to encourage our souls to dependence.
Now, when our wills are crossed, dangers attend us on every side, and we know not how far evil will break out to the overturning of all. What are the sins incident to such a time of trouble? and how do the wiles of Satan come upon us?
(1.) Impatience: Gen. xxx. 1, when the will of Rachel was crossed, she said unto Jacob, ‘Give me children, or else I die.’ When we unpatiently fret against the Lord: Ps. xxxvii. 1, ‘Fret not thyself because of evil-doers; neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.’
(2.) Murmuring and repining against the Lord, that is another snare: Jonah iv. 9, ‘I do well to be angry, even unto death;’ when he was crossed. Discontent at God’s providence gratifieth Satan exceedingly; when we will justify ourselves, and think it a kind of zeal to be angry, and pet against providence.
(3.) A spirit of revenge against instruments, when we do not sweetly calm the heart with the remembrance of God’s hand: 2 Sam. xvi. 9, ‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head.’ Thus when wicked men disturb order, the heart is apt to rise in revenge, therefore we are to calm our hearts.
(4.) There is fainting in duty; when we begin to give over prayer, and are discouraged, and are loth to wrestle with God in an ordinance: Heb. xii. 12, ‘Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.’ When a man’s hands begin to wax feeble, and he is discouraged in the ways of the Lord: ‘My foot had well-nigh slipped, saith David, Ps. lxxiii. 2.
(5.) There is closing with sinful means, and running to them for an escape; as Saul, when he was crossed: 1 Sam. xxviii. 7, ‘Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her.’ When we go to carnal shifts, and unworthy means, these are very natural to us.
(6.) Despair and distrustful thoughts of God, though we have had much experience of his goodness. David, 1 Sam. xxvii. 1, ‘I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul,’ after all his experience.
(7.) Questioning our interest in God, by reason of crosses, or the doubtful posture of our affairs: Judges vi. 13, ‘If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?
These are the wiles of Satan. Ride out the storm upon gospel encouragements. This will bear us up, it is but a moment to eternity. It is but ‘a light affliction, and will work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,’ 2 Cor. iv. 17.
The second point is this:-
Doct. 2. That if we would not be overcome by the evil of temptations, we should earnestly deal with God about them.
For so doth our Lord direct us here (‘Lead us not into temptation’) to come to God himself.
There are two reasons I shall consider of in this discourse:-
First, We cannot be tempted without the will of God.
Secondly, Nor resist without the power of God.
Therefore we should deal with God earnestly in all our temptations.
First, We cannot be tempted without the will of God.
That God hath a providence in and about temptations, is clear from the scripture: Mat. iv. 1, ‘Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil.’ The Holy Spirit had a hand in it, as well as the evil spirit. So, 2 Sam. xxiv. 1, ‘God moved David to number Israel and Judah;’ but in 1 Chron. xxi. 1, it is said, ‘And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.’ Satan, he cannot tempt without leave from God. As a lion cannot stir out of his cage, until the keeper brings him out, so the devil, this roaring lion, is held by the irresistible chains of God’s providence, and cannot stir until God brings him out.
Consider two things:-
[1.] To be led into temptation is more than simply to be tempted. Gods permitting us to be tempted is not so much as God’s leading us into temptation, for these are two distinct phrases. God may permit or suffer us to be tempted, as a lord or sovereign, which hath power over his own creature, for the trial and exercise of grace, and can absolutely dispose of it according to his own will; but he leads us into temptation as a judge. And therefore this is one of the comforts which Job propounds to himself, when Satan had a liberty to molest him. Job ix. 12, ‘He taketh away, who can hinder him? who shall say unto him, What doest thou?’ The general of an army may, according to his discretion, lead which band he pleaseth, and set them in the forlorn hope, in a place of the greatest danger, and appoint for reserves which part of the army he pleaseth. So God may single out his champions to combat for his glory, and may leave others in a more quiet posture, according as he pleaseth. Thus, as a sovereign agent, God may suffer to be tempted. But now, to lead into temptation, that is another thing, and implieth something of punishment, or as it is expressed, Mat. xxvi. 41, ‘Pray that ye enter not into temptation.’ We enter into it by our own voluntary motion, as having forfeited his protection. But then God leads us in as a judge, puts the malefactor into the executioner’s or officer’s hands: so doth God lead us into temptation; it is a judicial act, especially when left to perish under the weight of a temptation.
[2.] Consider God as a judge; he may lead us into temptation two ways: either he may act in way of correction, to manifest his fatherly indignation; or by way of strict punishment. And so, in respect of his fatherly correction, God may give us up to a vexing, or to an ensnaring temptation. He may lead the godly into temptation, that they may be molested and troubled; and may lead the wicked into temptation, that they may be seduced and led away for their eternal ruin. There is a vexing temptation God useth for the correction of his own children; and thus Paul was buffeted by Satan, lest he should be exalted above measure: 2 Cor. xii. 7. The shepherd sets his dog upon the strayed sheep, not to worry him, but to lodge him, and bring him back again into the fold: so doth God suffer his children to be buffeted and exercised by Satan, to their great trouble, but for their good in the issue; for he knoweth how to turn all these things for good. Then there is an ensnaring temptation, by which the wicked are entangled in a way of sin; and so Satan, as God’s executioner, is said sometimes to blind the eyes of wicked men, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them, 2 Cor. iv. 4; and sometimes to harden their hearts, John xii. 40, ‘lest they should be converted and healed.’ For the punishment of former sins God may give up the wicked to be blinded and hardened by Satan to their own destruction, which is one of the most dreadful acts of God, as a judge, on this side hell.
Certainly then, when we are tempted, we have great cause to deal with God about the temptation, for he hath a hand: either he may suffer us to be tempted, as lord and sovereign; or may lead us into temptation, either in a way of fatherly correction, or as a mere punishment, that we may more ruin and destroy ourselves.
I come now to the second reason.
Secondly, God alone can give strength to resist and overcome the temptation;
and therefore we should deal with him very earnestly about it: Rom. xvi. 20, ‘The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.’ It is God that treads down Satan, but under your feet. We fight it out, but the author of the victory is the God of peace. We are interested in it (for we trample upon Satan with our own feet), but God’s is the grace. Our faculties are not only exercised, but our graces.
Briefly, two ways doth God concur with the saints in resisting temptations. First, God plants all those graces in their hearts that are necessary to the conflict. To speak of those three essential graces, faith, fear, and love; these are all necessary for the resistance of a temptation. That faith is necessary, 1 Pet. v. 9, ‘Whom resist, steadfast in the faith.’ And fear and love, that they also are necessary, I shall prove thus: Satan’s weapons against us, and his way of assaulting, are either subtile wiles or fiery darts: ‘That ye may he able to stand against the wiles of the devil, and quench all the fiery darts of the wicked,’ Eph. vi. 11, 16. As he assaults us by fiery darts, by raging and boisterous temptations, take the shield of faith, cover all with the righteousness of Christ, and with a sense of your privileges by Christ, and that is it which maintains the heart, and keeps it against the fiery darts of the devil. But as he assaults us by his wiles, there fear and the love of God comes in, and is necessary for us. For there are two sorts of wiles that Satan useth for the destroying of our souls: one is, to convey the temptation by such means as are most taking with the person tempted; and the other is, disguising and turning himself into an angel of light, colouring the temptation.
For the first, namely, as he suiteth every distemper of our souls with a proper diet or food, or tempts us by such means as are likely to prevail, as if a man were tempted by sensual delight; there the love of God is necessary. Why? For nothing but the love of God will make us deny that which is so near and pleasing to us, or that affection which grows upon the apprehension of his grace in Christ; therefore the grace of God is said to teach us to ‘deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts:’ Titus ii. 12.
[2.] For the other wile. As Satan doth transform himself into an angel of light, and cover his base designs with plausible pretences; for instance, revenge shall be accounted zeal; he will disguise it so as that the very apostles shall count it zeal for the glory of God when they called for ‘fire from heaven to consume them,’ even as Elias did: Luke ix. 54. And carnal counsel shall be counted pity and natural affection: Mat. xvi. 22, ‘Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.’ He shall be the devil’s agent to tempt Christ, and his carnal counsel shall be looked upon as pity to his Master. And licentiousness shall be Christian liberty, and our liberty by Christ shall be used as an occasion to the flesh: Gal. v. 13. And an immoderate use of carnal pleasure shall be Christian rejoicing or Christian cheerfulness. Therefore, as there needs love to withstand the potency of temptation, by the suitableness of the bait to our own affections, so there needs the fear of God: Prov. xiv. 27, ‘The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.’ When the devil, by his wiles, is laying snares for us, snares of death, the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life. A man that is afraid to offend God, and to abuse his liberty, or run into any excess, under colour of grace, is very cautious and watchful, and thereby is not so soon surprised. Thus, when the soul is inflamed by the vehement heat of boiling lusts, or raging despair, faith is necessary: Luke xxii. 31, 32, ‘Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.’ Faith laying hold upon Christ’s righteousness, and waiting for his grace, teaches us to overcome in such conflicts.
But why should I instance in these three graces only, when we are bidden to ‘put on the whole armour of God ‘? Eph. vi. 11, 13. If we would come off with honour in this conflict, we must be completely armed; no power of the soul or sense of the body must be left naked and without a guard, therefore not one saving grace can be wanting.
A Christian is set forth as armed from head to foot. There is for the head a helmet of salvation, which is hope; a breastplate of righteousness; the girdle of truth; for shoes, the gospel of peace; the shield of faith; the sword of the Spirit. These are the graces necessary to resist temptation, and these we have from God. A Christian hath not only weapons offensive, but defensive; not only a sword, but also a shield. Satan hath only weapons offensive, as darts; he hath darts to wound the soul. Again, observe, there is no piece of armour for the back. Why? Because there is no flight in this spiritual warfare; we must stand to it: James iv. 7, ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’
But let us see what are the pieces of the spiritual armour. The apostle begins with ‘the girdle of truth,’ by which is meant, not truth of doctrine (for that is the sword of the Spirit), but sincerity, or an honest intention; when a man endeavoureth to be both to God and man what he seems to be. Now, it is the Lord that must renew the right spirit within us. Satan he assaults us with wiles, but our armour of proof against him is the girdle of truth. We stand against the wiles of Satan, but we must not fight against him with his own weapons, and put off wiles with wiles; sincerity and honest intention, that is our strength; this is the girdle to the loins, it gives strength and courage to the soul. And then there is ‘the breastplate of righteousness,’ or that grace which puts us upon a holy conversation, suitable to God’s will revealed in his word, whereby we endeavour to give God and man their due; it secures the breast and vital parts, the seed of inherent grace in the heart; an honest fixed purpose to obey God in all things. The next thing, the feet must be shod; we shall meet with rough ways in our passage to heaven, and what is that which is armour of proof for our feet? ‘The preparation of the gospel of peace,’ a sense of our peace and friendship made up between God and us through Christ. Without this we shall never follow God in the way of duty when we meet with difficulties and hardships. But ‘above all, take the shield of faith. A shield covers the body, but that which gives defence to all is faith: without this a man is naked. Destitute of Christ’s imputed righteousness, he wants his covenant-strength; it applieth Christ’s righteousness, and engageth the power of God on our behalf. Then there is ‘the helmet of salvation,’ which is hope: 1 Thes. v. 8. A well-grounded hope of salvation, it makes us hold up the head in the midst of all waves and sore assaults; that is, it is our great motive and encouragement in the work of sanctification. Then there is ‘the sword of the Spirit,’ which is both offensive and defensive; it wardeth off Satan’s blows, and makes him fly back from us as one wounded and ashamed. These are the graces. Now God gives them to us, and therefore he is called ‘The God of all grace,’ 1 Pet. v. 10. Why? because he requires it only? No, but because he giveth it also. And it is called ‘The armour of God,’ ver. 11. God is the author, God is the maker, God is the inventor of this armour, and he doth freely bestow it upon us. The apostle bids us ‘take the whole armour of God,’ ver. 13, that is, take it out of God’s hand. This armour is not of our making and procuring, but made to our hands by God himself.
Secondly, He actuates these graces by putting good motions into our hearts, or sweet and gracious thoughts, whereby all the fore-mentioned graces are drawn out. When we are conflicting with sin in an hour of temptation, faith is set a-work: ‘That God may fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power,’ 2 Thes. i. 11; that is, by a divine power and influence quickening it into acts. Joseph, when he was assaulted by a grievous temptation, he had a gracious motion and thought put into his mind: ‘How can I do this wickedness, and sin against God?’ Gen. xxxix. 9. Still there is a seasonable remembrance of things by the Spirit, whose office it is to bring all things to remembrance: John xiv. 26. The Spirit doth not only teach us all things, but brings things to our remembrance, when we have need of any truth to be set home upon the heart; either such a truth as forbids the evil to which we are tempted, or that speaketh comfort and encouragement to us under such a cross; or pressing such a duty as we hang off from. The seasonable remembrance of truths is the great actual help which we have from God. Jesus Christ himself, by seasonable urging the scriptures, defeated the temptation wherewith he was assaulted: Mat. iv. 10, 11. The word quickeneth in affliction: Ps. cxix. 50. Some proper comfort is borne in upon the soul by the power of God. It is not the bare remembrance of truth, but the secret power of God which enliveneth it, and makes it effectual in its season to defeat the temptation.
Use. It directs you what to do in temptations, to go to God for help and strength against them. Briefly, when you treat with God, it should be under a threefold notion:-
1. As the author and giver of grace.
2. As the sovereign giverand disposer of it, according to his own will.
3. As a judge, by temptation correcting some foregoing sin by the present temptation.
1. Treat with God as the author and giver of grace: James i. 17, ‘He is the father of lights, from whom every good and perfect gift cometh down.’ And so –
[1.] We ought to come to him as renouncing our strength, and waiting for his grace as able to help us. That address Jehoshaphat made in a temporal case is good also in a spiritual: 2 Chron. xx. 12, ‘Lord, we have no might; our eyes are unto thee.’ There is a renouncing of their own strength, and a dependence upon God. There must be a renouncing of all self-dependence, for God ‘gives grace to the humble,’ James iv. 6. The word humble is to be understood not morally, to those that are of a lowly carriage towards men, of a meek spirit; but it is understood spiritually, of those that, in the brokenness of their hearts, acknowledge their own nothingness and weakness: to these he gives grace. God withholdeth and withdraweth his influences when we do not acknowledge the daily and hourly necessity of grace – when we do not desire it with such vehemency as we were wont, nor receive it with such thankfulness and rejoicing. In these three last petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Give us this day our daily bread;’ then, ‘Forgive us our trespasses;’ then, ‘Lead us not into temptation:’ we beg daily bread, daily pardon, daily strength. We can neither live without the one nor the other: we cannot live without daily bread, nor live comfortably without daily pardon, nor live holily without daily grace. And therefore you are to ‘wait upon God all the day,’ Ps. xxv. 5; and Ps. xvi. 8, ‘I have set the Lord always before me.’ Now, we may be said to set the Lord before us, either in point of reverence, when we are sensible of his eye and presence, or in point of dependence, when we are still waiting for his strength; and that is the meaning there, ‘He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.’ Look, as a glass without a foot falls to the ground, and is broken as soon as it is set out of hand, such a sensible Christian apprehends himself to be if he be out of the hands of God; he is broken, and falls to pieces. Therefore, in this sense, he goes to God, and desires him to keep him from temptation. Dependence begets observance. If the creature could once but live of himself; though it were but for a while, God would seldom hear from him. This is that which is the bridle upon the new creature, to keep up his constant commerce with God.
[2.] We must go to him with confidence, in an actual dependence upon the all-sufficiency of his grace. It is not enough to apprehend our weakness, but we must also go forth in the strength of God; that is, hold up our hearts with a sense of this, that God is able to bear us up, and defeat all our spiritual enemies. God would not take off the temptation from Paul, 2 Cor. xii. 9, but saith, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ He can either weaken temptation, or give in further supply of strength; therefore encourage yourselves in the power of the Lord. The devil cannot tempt us one jot further than the Lord will permit him; his malice is limited and restrained: if you be in Satan’s hands, Satan is in God’s hands, and can do nothing without his leave and permission; he begs leave to enter into the herd of swine, much less can he enter into the sheep of his pasture.
2. Look upon God, not only as the giver of grace, but as the sovereign giver and disposer of it according to his own will: Phil. ii. 13, ‘It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.’ His giving of grace is altogether free, as what measure of assistance we shall have, and by what means it shall be supplied. God may enlarge or abate the degree of his influence, according to his own will. Now, thus we must come to him, with submission to his good pleasure, either for taking off the temptation, or continuing it for your exercise, or the measure of your supply. When you murmur and fret, it is a sign you have too good thoughts of yourselves; when we prescribe to God, it argues some ascribing to ourselves. You are to endeavour, indeed, to pray, and use all good means to come out of temptation; but submit, if the Lord be pleased to continue his exercise upon you. Nay, though God should continue the temptation, and for the present not give out those measures of grace necessary for you, yet you must not murmur, but lie at his feet; for God is Lord of his own grace.
3. You are to look upon God as a judge, correcting some foregoing sin by your present temptation. And therefore –
[1.] You must humble yourselves under his mighty hand, when you are exercised with great and sore temptations, and accept the punishment of your iniquity without murmuring; that is the only way to get it off, when you own it as the fruit of sin: Lev. xxvi. 41, ‘If then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity;’ and Micah vii. 9, ‘I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.’ Acknowledge the justice of his providence in this trouble that is brought upon you. A Christian must not only look to the malice of Satan in his temptations, but to the justice of God. Look, as in outward afflictions, we are not to reflect upon instruments: – Job did not say, ‘The Chaldean and Sabean hath taken,’ but ‘The Lord hath taken,’ chap. i. 23 – so in these spiritual afflictions, take the temptation out of God’s hand, as a judge. Though Satan pursue you with fiery darts, with temptations horrible and terrible, yet look upon it as the fruit of some foregoing sin. If he should tempt you by injection of despairing fears or blasphemous thoughts, these are not your sins, but they may be a punishment for your sins; so you ought to humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God. When you are vexed with such temptations as pierce and prick you in your veins, as David speaks; when the devil bears in blasphemous thoughts upon the heart, they are his sins, but your corrections, justly ordered by God. It may be it is for the correction of your sin that you have provoked God to afflict you thus; and this rod, if it smart, it was dipped in your own guilt, and it is a fruit of God’s fatherly indignation for your folly and vanity; for God may thus manifest it, by giving thee up to this severe discipline, to be tempted and vexed by Satan. Now, it is your duty to be sensible of your sin, and say, as Sion in her troubles, Lam. i. 18, ‘The Lord is righteous, for I have rebelled against his commandment.’
[2.] Find out and remove the cause of sin, when God lets loose Satan upon us. Paul discerned it presently – as usually God’s rod brings light along with it – when he was buffeted with a messenger of Satan; it was that he might not be ‘exalted above measure,’ 2 Cor. xii. 7. Now that which hath provoked God to exercise us with this discipline, that may be known sometimes by the time when this temptation surpriseth us: if it tread upon the heels of some immediate and foregoing provocation – that is the sin you should humble yourselves for; or by that ill frame and posture of spirit wherein the temptation found you, as Paul’s heart was likely puffed up and exalted with his spiritual enjoyments; therefore God lets loose Satan. Sometimes by the nature of the temptation itself, for God suits punishments to sins, and apt and proper remedies to every disease; or else the sin will be cast up by workings of conscience in a way of remorse, as in a tempest that which is at bottom comes on top; or God will discover it by his Spirit, when you go and seek to him. When temptation is grievous and sore, go to God and say, Lord, why is it thus with me? Job xxxiv. 31, 32, ‘Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more. That which I see not, teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.’ Pray for a discovery of your secret sin, and what is the mind of God in the dispensation. Now, when you have found out the cause of the sin, this is the direction, to remove the cause; for until we let the sin go, God will continue the punishment; though we strive, pray, and ask counsel, our burden will still be continued upon us, until sin be mortified in us, though in some measure it be removed out of our hearts.